By Iain McKechnie
Coastal Field Archaeology is a 6-week university course being run through the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre with the support of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations. We are working in Huu-ay-aht territory on the south side of Barkley Sound on the west Coast of Vancouver Island. We are here to learn about archaeological fieldwork and field research in coastal British Columbia in general but are doing this by learning about archaeological sites and Indigenous histories in Huu-ay-aht territory in particular. While there are a large number of previously surveyed and recorded archaeological sites in the territory, only a tiny fraction have been investigated by archaeologists. We are adding detail to this history by working at three previously known archaeological landscapes identified as significant places by Huu-ay-aht elders and government officials. This research aims to contribute archaeological insight into the human and environmental history of these places and further demonstrate the enduring continuity of Huu-ay-aht occupation and terrestrial and marine resource use with a particular focus on the period since European explorers arrived on the coast in the 1770s.
With the guidance of Larry Johnson, Director of the Huu-ay-aht Lands and Resources Department, the support of the Huu-ay-aht executive council, as well as the Bamfield Marine Science Centre and its five member universities (UVic, UBC, SFU, U-Calgary, and U-Alberta), we are extremely fortunate to have this educational and research opportunity. We are 14 students mostly from various BMSC member universities, two Huu-ay-aht youth from Anacla, two instructors, and a teaching assistant.
We have just completed our fourth week of fieldwork and this week we surveyed dense forested terrain near Bamfield and documented several sites including previously unrecorded culturally modified tree features and ancient habitation and resource use sites (shell middens). We were generously assisted in the field by Huu-ay-aht archaeologist and forestry survey specialist Stephen Smith (centre with the hardhat) as well as Bamfielder and current MA Student in Anthropology at UVic, Stella Wenstob, (in yellow on right). We are also getting the opportunity to visit a few incredible Huu-ay-aht archaeological sites both inland and on the coast including the 5,000 year old site of Huu7ii in the Deer Group Islands.
This Upcoming Friday (August 23rd), our class will be hosting a lunch for Huu-ay-aht community members at 12:30pm. Just after lunch around 1pm, we will be opening up the Ross Lecture Theatre
(in the cafeteria building at BMSC) to present an interpretive display of our findings as well as show off the equipment and techniques we are using to conduct archaeological research in the territory.
We invite everyone to stop by and learn about our work after 1pm – locals and visitors alike – as well as other researchers and staff at BMSC. Coffee and cookies will be served around 2:30pm and the display tables will be up until approximately 3:30pm.
Please do come visit us next Friday at the Ross Lecture Theater in the cafeteria building at Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
The 2013 Coastal Field Archaeology course on an intertidal gradient.